K+BB Collective | The Designers' Corner

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Oct 15 2014

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Designers Discuss Favorite Trends & Products

October is National Kitchen and Bath Month, and we thought it would be interesting to ask designers what they thought were some of the most significant trends and products in kitchen and bath design today.

Outdoor Living Environments on the Rise

“There is growing interest in bringing the comfort and hominess we love indoors outside,” said Grace Kelly of Kitchen Designs. “At Kitchen Designs we are also noticing a major upswing in demand for creating outdoor environments, especially outdoor kitchens.” When you specify for the outdoors, it’s important to consider quality components that can withstand the elements.

The Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet and BLANCO kitchen sink and faucet are featured in this outdoor installation by Kitchen Designs.

The Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet and BLANCO kitchen sink and faucet are featured in this outdoor installation by Kitchen Designs.

Timeless Elements Inspire a Sense of Permanence

“In new construction, there is a movement toward traditional kitchens, with an emphasis on quality that inspires a sense of permanence,” said Drew Lang of Lang Architecture, designer and developer of Hudson Woods. “Today’s homebuyer – whether it’s their first, second or third purchase – doesn’t want a trendy kitchen that will need a refresh in five years; they are looking for timelessness, and Hudson Woods evokes precisely that sentiment. Our kitchens are built to last with handcrafted finishes and cutting-edge accouterments.”

Hudson Woods architect Drew Lang sought a timeless look with SMEG appliances.

Hudson Woods architect Drew Lang sought a timeless look with SMEG appliances.

Blending Traditional and Modern Elements

Many clients are looking for the comfort of classic styles but at the same time seek to be fresh and contemporary. “I look for something ‘different’ that has not been over used and is on trend yet [with a] classic style,” said Cheryl Kees Clendenon of In Detail Design. “Just the right blend of traditional and modern.”

Tile of Spain manufacturer Porcelanosa offers just right blend of traditional and modern for this In Detail Design bathroom.

Tile of Spain manufacturer Porcelanosa offers just right blend of traditional and modern for this In Detail Design bathroom.

Another tactic to blend old and new: Use contemporary finishes with traditional hardware patterns by Top Knobs as featured in this In Detail Design kitchen.

Another tactic to blend old and new: Use contemporary finishes with traditional hardware patterns by Top Knobs as featured in this In Detail Design kitchen.

Layered Conversations – Designing for Multi-Uses

”Kitchens these days are all about a layered conversation,” said Christopher D. Martinez, Poggenpohl Paramus, N.J. “How are all the individual pieces working together as a whole for the end user and their guests? The kitchen should communicate both functionally & aesthetically.”

Clients want spaces for storage, cooking and entertaining. Defining workspaces for each, homeowners can prepare meals and remain part of the conversation with guests and family.

Defining workspaces helps homeowners to prepare meals and remain part of the conversation for this Poggenpohl kitchen.

Defining workspaces helps homeowners to prepare meals and remain part of the conversation for this Poggenpohl kitchen.

Baths Are a Calming Getaway from the Stress of Daily Life

Michael Adams recently designed a bathroom space for the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island. While he was designing for the many families in crisis who will be using the space, the need for a calming getaway from the stress of daily life is certainly a trend today in everyday bathroom design.

“I wanted to create a contemporary space that was serene and calm for the families who are staying there,” said Adams of Michael Adams ID. “Kartell by Laufen offered me the look and the functionality for this space where so many families just need a clean environment and a pampering break where all their needs are met in this time of crisis. The fixtures are pure, simple and highly designed. They rise up to meet the need while maintaining the clutter free and calming space I was hoping for.”

The need for a calming getaway from the stress of daily life is certainly a trend today in everyday bathroom design, according to Michael Adams of Michael Adams ID.

The need for a calming getaway from the stress of daily life is certainly a trend today in everyday bathroom design, according to Michael Adams of Michael Adams ID.

 

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Sep 04 2014

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Is Houzz Helping or Hurting?

Image by cooldesign, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by cooldesign, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

K+BB recently asked our Designers Network LinkedIn group: What are some challenges you are dealing with as kitchen and bath professionals? Some of the responses were expected and others were a surprise. Read on and see if you feel the same way, and feel free to comment here or in our LinkedIn group.

Rex G. Hirst, CKD Au, Interior Designer at Let’s Talk Kitchens & Interiors

While I am in Australia, I think our challenge here is a universal one – to find reliable, ethical, creative, commercially savvy design/sales staff who put the client and their needs, wants, etc., ahead of their desire to simply make a pile of money. While we all work for a living, it seems to me that most people just focus on the “what’s in it for me?” While understandable, it’s never going to make you really successful, as your client’s will sense that they are just a paycheck for you, not an opportunity to do something special.

Too many people forget that making money is the result of success, so if you just focus on getting it perfect, the money will always take care of itself. It should be the result of your success, not the reason for working. Every great salesperson I have ever known has been driven by passion, not money. The funny thing is, these people also make the most money.

John Meade, Kitchen and Bath Manager at H. N. Hinckley & Sons, Inc.

My biggest challenge is keeping up the workload. With the economy doing better I have more customers, and they want kitchens that are more custom than ever, which requires more hours. This includes changing dimensions of cabinet boxes and face frames and even modifying door styles. Most of these clients are regular customers, so I have to keep up with their needs. We are not busy enough to hire another designer yet, so I am in that in-between stage with the pressure. It’s not a bad challenge and much better than the alternative – I’ll keep pushing to the next stage.

Houzz and TV Influence

Karen Hockley, CKD, CBD, Kitchen Designer

Having been a sales rep for a cabinet company for seven years and just re-entering the design world has been eye opening. One of the biggest challenges I am seeing seems to be the customer’s budget versus their wants and desires. In the last 10 years, I have seen a change in customers’ wants, which may be a reflection of consumers visiting Houzz and watching HGTV. Technology and innovation is moving so fast.

Ten years ago customers were focused on purchasing quality cabinetry and a great kitchen. What I am seeing now is everyone wants granite or quartz countertops and the latest appliances, and the quality of the cabinetry they purchase is not their primary focus. I wish there were more websites with real kitchens along with budgets for the job. This would go a long way toward helping consumers set realistic goals, expectations and budgets for their projects. It is always a rewarding experience making customers’ dreams come true, even on a limited budget. I believe this and passion for design fuels myself and many designers in the industry.

Cathy Osborne, Designer at Auer Kitchens

Houzz and “Property Brothers” can cause another problem – a sort of “wave the magic wand” syndrome. I have many customers who do have the square footage and the budgets to do those grand rooms you see; they know there will be enough storage and countertop space – with 600 square feet, how can you not? But they think you can skip the design phase and leap directly to a pretty picture of something that looks “just like this Houzz shot”…“except sort of like that one.”

To adapt the look to their space and have something to render and price, one must have a plan. How many islands? How many sinks? Coffered ceiling? Design consultations with certain clients can be frustrating because they get bored with the academics. You never see that step on TV where the fully designed 3-D kitchen springs forth from the space, and it is instantly perfect. Clients are seeking that “big reveal” moment and are disappointed that getting their dream kitchen requires time, hard work and not much drama.

Lai Fung, Project Development Consultant/Designer at Paris Kitchens

HOUZZ and TV renovations shows – kitchens are getting more and more custom and detailed. I’ve been in the kitchen industry for nearly 20 years, and homeowners’ expectations are higher than ever.

Debbi Washburn, Kitchen/Bath Designer

Early on Houzz you saw real, everyday homes and projects – ranches, split levels, capes, etc., great before and after photos of 70s kitchens with avocado green appliances and dark cabinets with vinyl floors, which were turned into beautiful little kitchens. Now when you do searches, most of what you see are these grand kitchens with 10-ft. ceilings. While it is great to see those for design ideas, it would be nice to have a search option for smaller kitchens – spaces that fit that tighter budget many people are working with.

I use Houzz quite frequently with my customers; it helps them express what they are drawn to. Most of the time they don’t even know that the doors are inset/custom or that the counter is some expensive marble or exotic granite, they just like the look and how it makes them feel. Then we look at it together and pull apart the photos to find out WHY they like it. By already knowing their budgets and the scope of the brands I carry, I can discuss with them cost issues and help them find alternatives. My customers often have gone to a big box store first, so not only do I have to get down to that pricing, I still need to show them their dream kitchen so they don’t have to settle.

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Jun 03 2014

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How to Keep a Budget – and Your Client – on Track

DollarDollarDollar

K+BB recently asked the question in our Designers Network LinkedIn group: Has anyone had experience designing a kitchen or bath on a tight or otherwise challenging budget? The helpful responses provide insight into tips to keep the budget on track, as well as the clients.

Anne-Marie Harvey, Kitchen and Bath Design Consultant

New paint, door hardware and faucets can go a long way in freshening up a room. If your house was built in the 80s or early 90s, removing the dated borders, wallpaper and the often-matching window treatments can also help. Many people with limited budgets do not want to make any fixes that cannot be reused in a future update, so I tend to keep it simple.

Tom Clarke, CKD, Certified Designer at Baton Rouge Design Studio, LLC

To keep cost down, if we’re talking about replacing an existing kitchen, start by finding out what the client likes about what they have and what they would prefer. Re-purpose anything that can be reused that the client is okay with. Replace cabinets with a door style that fits the budget in an affordable wood species. Sure the client would love to have cherry cabinets, but maple wood with a cranberry finish may fit the budget better and still give the same appearance (almost). Laminate is still the most cost-efficient surfacing material for kitchens. If laminate doesn’t fit the bill, imported pre-cut granite slabs will be the next cost-effective material (in my region). Strip convenience features from the cabinets such as rollout tray storage and lazy Susans. Many of these items can be purchased after market and installed by the homeowner later when budget allows. I won’t ever “kill a corner;” the additional cost for that blind corner or easy-reach cabinet far outweighs loss of the additional storage.

Paul Kenning Stewart, Owner, PROJEKT HOME/Originals by Design (Member NKBA)

Doesn’t matter ‘who’ the client, everyone has their budget limitations including myself. A budget is a challenge, and a good designer should be up to it. In some cases it also means sourcing and turning that sow’s ear into a silk purse while listening/working with the client.

Debbi Washburn, Kitchen/Bath Designer

Everyone has a budget – some are easy and some are tight. I like to educate my customers on what the differences are between my entry-level lines up through premium semi-custom lines so they know what they can purchase with different budget sizes. I discuss the amount of time they will be remaining in the home. I also discuss what the scope of the project is. Once we determine that, then the discussion goes to the things that must be done “right” the first time – cabinets, flooring, plumbing, electrical – and items that can be put off until later – high-end counters, rollout trays, fancy backsplashes and even appliances. This allows the customer to get the bones of the space done and return to the more easily changed items when their pocketbook will allow.

Deneane Bradtke, Owner, Brookstone Design, Inc.

It doesn’t make sense to place expensive counter tops over lesser-quality cabinets. And layout is king. A good, well-functioning layout is the most important thing that we, as professionals, can give our clients.

Sharon L. Olsen, AKBD, Designer’s Edge Kitchen, Bath & Interior Design

As an independent designer, I find that when clients contact me, they are not looking to reface items – they want to remodel their spaces often due to poor layout or materials that are worn out. I agree with the comments that we must manage expectations and help them understand the costs associated with even a budget remodel. However, we do this all the time – for most people, they remodel maybe once in their lifetime. It is about us educating them and helping them achieve their goals within a realistic budget. Value engineering! There are so many wonderful products now that are quality and mimic the high-end look – the laminate countertops at KBIS this year are one example. Understanding how much DIY skill they have can help control costs with demo, painting and in some cases tiling back splashes as long as it does not impact the construction schedule. I have helped clients with staging a project over several years, which can allow them to afford the items they want. It has to begin with good bones – function, layout, updating electrical and plumbing to code, ventilation, cabinetry and flooring. The rest can be added over time.

Patrick Forse, Design Professional

A “tight budget” for someone with $100,000 to spend is vastly different from someone with only, say, $10,000 to spend. Surely a budget for work is just that – an amount of money put aside to do the work. The client is the one spending the money; it’s not ours. I think because of some inflated prices by certain manufacturers this creates a false idea of how much a client should spend, but I think the question should not be about a “tight budget” but an “unrealistic budget.” The client wanting the very best on the market but with an amount of money that won’t meet [those needs] – now that is one to solve carefully.

George Gobes, Park Avenue Designs, Inc.

Every job has a budget. The question is, how do you arrive at it? A budget is only tight or challenging when an unrealistic customer expects you to provide them with a product that costs more than they can afford or are willing to pay for. Since accurate costing is difficult for some in our community, many designers don’t know when to walk away from a poor prospect. Here is my tip: Tell the client to infuse more cash into their budget or lower the project’s specs. If you don’t, they will become your headache – and more importantly, your wallet-ache!

Erica Kalkofen, Remodeling Designer – My Remodeling Designer

We frequently run into this scenario and have several easy solutions. First, we find out how much the client is willing to participate and show them that the more they participate, the more they can keep the costs down. Second, we find out their buying preferences (Ikea, stock, semi-custom, full-custom) and make recommendations for them based on that. Third, (depending on the situation), we may opt to take a lower margin but higher project management fee on the products they opt to purchase from us. Fourth, we offer a design-only service that gives clients a way to get all the details they can purchase on their own instead of purchasing and installing everything through our firm. We have done kitchens for very little and kitchens for quite a bit, and it all boils down to good design and showing clients how they can achieve bliss in their space.

Charles Cameron, Owner/Principal Designer at Design Details

I would not usually recommend repainting cabinets, but walls and countertops are an easy way to give a space a boost. The thing I find that most ugly kitchens have in common is bad lighting. It’s not always an easy thing to fix, but it buys more bang for the buck than any other change. K+BB recently asked the question in our Designers Network LinkedIn group: Has anyone had experience designing a kitchen or bath on a tight or otherwise challenging budget? The helpful responses provide insight into tips to keep the budget on track, as well as the clients.

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May 08 2014

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Key Issues for Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers When Working with Multi-Unit Projects

Image from Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image from Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

With banks cautiously loosening their grip with proven investors and morale percolating with hopeful intent, the building market for condos and multi-unit housing is again showing signs of life. South Florida and outer Manhattan, for example, are two markets that are sprouting new construction for apartment sales and rentals.

When working on these kinds of projects, communication occurs among four main contacts: the buyer, architect, manufacturer and client. The buyer is either the general contractor, the developer or the owner of the project. The buyer generally communicates directly with the architect on building products and furnishings for the building. It is the architect’s responsibility to give clear adherence to the manufacturer in regard to drawings, specifications and approved designs. The client in this case is considered the buyer of the unit and should always have a clear understanding of what cabinet choices they have.

Pointers for Successful Communication

The manufacturer is usually in the passenger seat, trying to get the project awarded. For a working relationship to be successful in the long run, it is important that the manufacturer doesn’t oversell. The company needs to face any limitations realistically in terms of volume, production times and manpower. A mutually beneficial relationship depends on respect and professional understanding.

Product Selection: What to Consider

The decision about a product, especially from the kitchen and bathroom category, is most influenced by past experience, budget, the architect’s recommendations and the marketing/sales division. All of these factors are valid, however, in most cases marketing wins and is most influential in the buyer’s decision-making process

Important factors for the selection include the manufacturer’s capacity, performance and reliability of the product. Many buildings today are looking to meet LEED or USGBC requirements. Market value and the reputation of customer service during and after the installation of the building product should be considered even before meeting with the company.It is up to the architect and buyer to fully research the company in reference to financial strength, longevity and overall performance. Often it is up to the architect to make the initial selection, which s/he will then present to the buyer.

A good barometer for production capacity for a small project should not be less than 200 cabinets per day. When a buyer or architect is in the decision-making process, they need to consider what type of track record a company has and how long the company has been in operation. Later down the road, a developer does not want to be faced with problems obtaining replacement parts. This impacts the decision of the fronts for the kitchen; for example, it may not be wise for a developer to choose an exotic wood front in the event that at a later date it is no longer available. Another issue when selecting a cabinet is with book-matched fronts. Should a buyer select book-matched and one cabinet front in a unit gets damaged and a replacement is needed, all fronts need to be replaced. In this case, the buyer must weigh attractive design with long-term practicality.

Questions for the Buyer to Consider:

- What is the delivery time from the release of the design to the jobsite and through final installation?

- Who is taking care of the installation?

- What type of packaging is being used?

- How many cabinets do the developer and architect expect to be delivered per day? Per week?

- Are parts readily available at the factory? If not, how are they supplied if replacement parts are needed?

- What is the warranty in the event that a product is damaged upon receipt at the jobsite, and what are the terms and conditions when a cabinet becomes damaged?

The buyer also has the right to ask the manufacturer for a performance bond, which is a document issued by a bank or insurance company to guarantee that the value of the work will not be lost in the case of an unfortunate event (such as insolvency). A performance bond is also known as a “surety bond,” which is a promise to pay the obligee a certain amount if a second party (principal) fails to meet some obligation, such as fulfilling the terms of a contract. A suitable manufacturer for a multi-unit building should be able to present this bond. A company with good credit or good standing will be able to get one.

Reaching the Final Agreement

A signed shop drawing by the architect or buyer’s representative, including a written production release by the buyer, is the only way to create a final manufacturing agreement. A shop drawing is the best receipt for the buyer and manufacturer as long as it is completely clear, detailed and mutually agreed upon.

Final plans should be attained by the manufacturer to specify and draw the project correctly. The plans provide detailed information, including ceiling heights, electrical plans with outlets, plumbing diagrams, final floor-by-floor detail, requirements for appliances and countertops and finally, provisions for cabinet backing or inside wall material, which is always important when mounting cabinets.

Outside-the-box requests sometimes arise from the architect or buyer in regard to upgrades, for example. Sometimes a penthouse unit will have features the others don’t. In this case, clear documentation to upgrades and credits needs to be established up front. Red flags for kitchen manufacturers start when the company starts to design products outside of their business model. A manufacturer performs better on multi-unit projects when producing products from its own product line rather than creating “special” products.

Consistency in quality, color and style for cabinet door fronts is the responsibility of the manufacturer to maintain during the production process. Most large cabinetry companies equipped to furnish high-rise developments have a specialized Quality Control Department to undergo rigorous checking and testing. Additionally, depending on the size and duration of the building’s progress, aging and storage need to be considered especially for raw (wood) materials. For real wood fronts, in the case that the cabinets arrive on time and the project is delayed, storage must have be kept dry in a dark cool place and out of view of any direct sunlight.

Because the buyer and architect have so many decisions to make for one project is the reason a project can be held up. The fewer kitchen choices a buyer offers to their end client, the least amount of difficulties are expected in reference to ordering, specifying and installation. Giving a customer too many choices, especially those who live out of town, will create delays, confusion and disappointments because of more complicated decision-making. It’s generally recommended not to give customers moving into a new building more than two packaged design options for their future kitchen.

Special Conditions

Kitchen designers may run into special conditions from the buyer or architect, for example, they may want to see the kitchen in full before the release of the main production. A real-life, mock-up kitchen has many great benefits for all of the trades. First off, a mock-up display is a great way to test the design and clear up any uncertainties. If the buyer or architect has questions or concerns, seeing the design in real life solidifies their decision and approval. A mock-up also reconfirms that the electrical, plumbing and appliance fittings are correct. Lastly and most important is that when the building is on the market to ensure the look and feel of the design underscores the unit’s marketing goals.

Jobsite

Scheduling of appliances and cabinetry should be a priority. It is important to keep the flow of communication constant throughout the entire phase of the project for notifications on delays and milestone dates to better align delivery and performance. Before installation, the manufacturer should appoint a chief installer who serves as the go-to for technical issues. Union and OSHA requirements can be requested to be presented by the manufacturer to ensure that proper safety is executed on the jobsite. Also ADA requirements should be discussed before approaching the installation.

Training and knowledge of the facts and demands of the job are acquired through factory training and experience. Professionalism is attained when the right person acquired the proper experience and skills. Last but not least, servicing multi-unit projects requires the highest level of integrity from the manufacturer’s representative combined with attention to detail and an innate interest and passion for the trade.

- Lothar C. Birkenfeld is a National Kitchen and Bath Hall of Fame award winner and a 30+-year veteran of the European custom cabinet industry. Birkenfeld discusses what it takes to make it in the cabinet business as a manufacturer for multi-unit projects.

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